The Marl-based research team took the opportunity to get to know their new colleagues and facilities in Krefeld at the beginning of the year. Together with Functional Solutions (FY), both business lines are part of the Performance Materials division as of July 1, 2020.
Baby Care operates multiple production units at the Krefeld site to manufacture superabsorbents, which are used in hygiene products such as diapers. The material expands on contact with aqueous liquids and forms a gel, which does not release the bound liquid even under mechanical impact. This enables the absorbents to absorb water quantities multiple times their own weight. The PI researchers were able to see this this impressive effect in the application technology laboratories, where the functionality of finished diapers is tested on specially designed dolls. “We enjoyed learning more about other units and their chemical applications and to share information with the colleagues on site,” says Matthias König, R&D Manager at PI.
Superabsorbent production starts with the polymerization of liquid acrylic acid, which causes the product to congeal into a rubbery solid on the conveyor belt. After a few process steps such as crushing, follow-up treatment and drying, the final superabsorbents are packaged in big bags in the form of a fine white granulate for shipping to customers.
“It was an interesting experience to learn about other chemical processes that do not need to be carried out under inert gas or other special technology,” added Anna Chiara Sale, R&D Manager at PI. “Our own chemical work and processes are very different!”
The PI team used the occasion to introduce C4 chemistry and the individual stages of Marl’s C4-Verbund production from butadiene extraction to the finished plasticizer from the perspective of employees in these areas. As a farewell gift, the team received a test kit for experimenting with the impressive absorption capacity of Evonik’s absorbents.
The visit was just the beginning. A follow-up meeting is planned.